Remarks at the Annual Pulaski Day Banquet in New York, New York

September 25, 1983

Well, I thank you, President Cieslik. And I don't want to offend anyone, but down at the end of the table, on the way in, I was given another Solidarity button, and I might as well put it on.

Grand Marshal Zagurek, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, I'm most pleased to have this opportunity to be with you, even though it's only for a few moments because I've got to move on to my duties with the United Nations.

America is a land composed of many cultures, and yet we all have one thing in common: We love freedom. And I'm proud to be here honoring citizens whose passion for liberty is second to none.

Polish Americans have always been head and shoulders above the crowd when it comes to love of country and responsible citizenship. And it's a great pleasure for me to recognize and show appreciation for the great contributions of Polish Americans to this nation. And we begin by what you're doing, honoring General Casimir Pulaski, one of our nation's first Polish American heroes. He gave his life for our country in the Battle of Savannah, Georgia, on October 11, 1779. By making this supreme sacrifice, General Pulaski showed the deep love of freedom that burns in the hearts of those who have come to these shores to start a new life.

The example set by such great men has been continued over the centuries. Polish Americans have shed much blood in the defense of our nation, and you know what sacrifices are sometimes called for to defend that cherished freedom. I know that this same love of freedom is in the hearts of your friends and relatives in Poland today. Tonight, in your presence, I would like to reaffirm my commitment to a free and democratic Poland.

In doing so, I would also like to thank you for your strong support of our policies. To all of us here in America, whether our heritages be Polish or Lithuanian or Chinese or Irish, the struggle of the Polish workers serves as a constant reminder of the power of ideas and the human dignity which comes from the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the freedom of our fellow man. Today, we must face challenges to our freedom with the courage and dedication of men like Pulaski. We can face the future with confidence.

Recently, the Soviet massacre of 269 airline passengers shocked the civilized world. But Polish Americans know all about the brutal nature of the regime that has controlled the Soviet Union since 1917. You know that downing a passenger airliner is totally consistent with a government that murdered 15,000 Polish officers in the Katyn forest. We cannot let the world forget that crime, and we will not.

Poland has suffered so much throughout her history, but she's given so much more to the world. And today, the world is grateful that Poland has given us a man whose courage and faith inspires us all and gives us hope when it would be so easy to despair. I say to your in all sincerity, thank God for Pope John Paul and all that he is doing. And may we all pray that his life be protected.

We Americans of all backgrounds have a tremendous responsibility. If freedom is to survive, it will depend on us. I know that together, we will see to it that America remains a mighty force for good in the world.

May God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 6:29 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

In his remarks, the President referred to Adam J. Cieslik, president of the General Pulaski Memorial Committee, and Michael J. Zagurek, Sr., grand marshal of the General Pulaski Day Parade.

On September 6 the President signed Proclamation 5090, proclaiming October 11 as General Pulaski Memorial Day.